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Andover senior Sam Stewart wrestled through five-plus seasons, three state tournament appearances and countless hours of training to win 199 career matches.

His first chance at No. 200 came Feb. 9 at Coon Rapids. Stewart made sure to get it right the first time. His first-period pin earned him the milestone.

That makes him one of more than 50 wrestlers with at least 200 career victories, according to the Guillotine wrestling magazine website.

"I think you can attribute his career to two things," Huskies coach Jeff Thompson said. "He's got an insane work ethic and he's a smart wrestler. He stays calm and he's very tactical."

Those attributes will serve Stewart well as he begins his push toward a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance.

Andover wrestles at St. Francis on Thursday in a pigtail, or play-in, match for the No. 8 seed in the Class 3A, Section 7 team tournament.

The individual Section 7 tournament begins Feb. 24.

Four of the top seven teams in the Guillotine rankings hail from Section 7.

Stewart, ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds, is one of four wrestlers in his section ranked among the top eight. He started this week with a 34-2 record.

Stewart spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about his milestone match and taking a fresh mental approach into the postseason.

Q How were you feeling before the Coon Rapids match?

A I started out the day kind of excited. But toward the match I kept getting more nervous with everyone saying, "Good luck tonight." Right before I went out on the mat I was telling myself, "It's just another match."

Q Was there a lot of expectation on you to get it done that night?

A Yeah, everyone was kind of anticipating it. The certificate I got had the date of the match on it. There were people passing around poster boards and markers before the meet.

Q So you had no choice but to win then?

A [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. That was the plan.

Q How were you feeling when you won the match?

A The crowd went pretty crazy. Everyone there was pretty supportive. I think Coon Rapids wrote somewhere about it in the match program. Wrestling is a pretty tight-knit community and there's a lot of mutual respect.

Q What other sort of recognition did you receive later that night or the next day?

A Right after the meet there was a pizza party back at Andover. Most of the guys on the team and their parents were there. There were a lot of handshakes, a lot of congratulations.

Q You are having a really strong senior year so far. What goals do you have for the approaching postseason?

A In past years I've wanted to be a state champion. I think the past three years I was ranked pretty high in the state all year. But I just kind of didn't show up at state. I don't know if it was anxiety or what. So this year I decided to change things up. Instead of setting a goal of a state championship, I'm thinking about more as, "I want to leave high school knowing I did the best I could." I want to be happy when I finish.

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574